Content is at the center of SEO and is all powerful in driving the campaign towards success. Content connects the brand with the audience and must be of good quality. It generates interest among the targeted audience by being relevant and useful while helping the audiences gain some value from it. Another vital factor to consider when creating content is its length. What should be the ideal length of content or copy that helps to rank in the first place? Is there any optimum word count to achieve the goal? These are questions that every SEO consultant faces when advising clients about the need to enhance the pages with better content. Often, the content length acquires more importance over other considerations like the detail it needs to contain and the audience for whom it is meant.

The notion that longer content ranks better prevails in the SEO circles because there is a feeling that more words demonstrate authoritativeness to search engines and dramatically improves ranking. However, there is yet no firm data available to support the point, and it is more of a myth. But then why is there a general feeling that longer copy can push up the ranking of pages?

Misinterpreted studies

Numerous studies have been conducted to understand the relation between the copy length or word count and ranking. One such study by Baclinko in April 2020 showed that 1447 word was the average copy length for the results that appear on the first page of Google search result. Most people conclude that it is the ideal content length, whereas the result shows the correlation between content length and ranking. The study establishes the correlation only and not the cause.

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What is the best copy length (word count) for SEO?

Many factors influence the ideal length of copy or word count, and all these cannot get linked to ranking. The length of the copy must please humans and not search bots. It must be long as needed to help the user achieve their goals on the page – whether providing an in-depth explanation of a topic or subject, quickly identifying an answer to a question, or simply demonstrating the product specifications. The need for users and how to satisfy it should be the top priority when creating content instead of focusing on the word count.

Is there any ideal word count?

You would still like to know what would be the best word count to excel with SEO. There is no fixed answer to this because it depends on what you want to achieve with the content for satisfying the needs of the target audience. The goal should be to fulfill the searcher’s query because search engines rank pages according to the content’s ability to resonate with the audience by meeting their expectations.  Never does Google consider the content length for ranking but instead emphasize its ability to satisfy the user query. The quality of content and how well it answers the user query is critical for search engines in determining the ranking. Never is the content length of any consideration to determine the content quality. Moreover, there is no reason to draw a comparison with the top-ranking pages and consider it to the ideal for earning the top rank.

The issue of correlation and causation

When trying to understand word count, most people cannot differentiate between correlation and causation that drives them in the wrong direction. When you look at the top 5 results on the SERP for any specific search term, you might surmise that replicating the copy length of that content could help you to earn similar ranks. But this is not the case because besides word count that Google considers many other factors for ranking pages. Word count might only be an indirect factor for ranking. The chances are that longer content is more link-worthy because it is more shareable, as revealed in a Hub Spot study in 2015. Longer pages might contain more comprehensive answers that pushed up the ranking. The correlation is more important than causation. Trying to conclude that content length alone influences ranking is a mistake.

What should be the copy length?

It will be wrong to believe that longer content performs well always and, therefore, the best.  The focus must be on creating content that is factually correct, comprehensive, and written, as mentioned in Google’s starter guides. Do not make the mistake of equating comprehensive with long content. Aim for including everything in the content to make it complete without restricting its length, but avoiding making it too long can dilute it or make users lose their patience. Provide exhaustive information that the user wants to know, and the type of query determines how long the answer should be. Searches for historical or scientific knowledge would lead to longer content than searches for the best sports shoes near me. 

Factors that influence the content length

Do not have any preconceived notion about content length and try to understand the ideal word count for content. Consider what will help to rank well, focus on the purpose of the page, user intent, and conversion, which will automatically calibrate the content length or word count.

The purpose of a page – How well a page ranks depends on how well you know the purpose for which you are creating the page. Do you want to create an informational page or want the page to act like a signpost that leads visitors to another page? Is it a transactional page? The purpose will determine how much copy would suffice. 

User intent – Knowing what the user wants is the best way to figure out what content length would be appropriate. Once you know what the user wants from the landing page, you can make it comprehensive enough to meet those needs instead of making it long just for its sake. 

Conversion – Since the content should help users complete an action or facilitate the conversion, the content length must suit the user’s needs.  

A longer copy is welcome in many cases, but not the only reason the page ranks well. Aiming to meet user needs is the best way to arrive at the correct word count.

Posted by Wendy Dessler

Wendy is a super connector who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized marketing plans depending on the industry and competition.

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